I have a confession to make: Before March 24, 2018, I had never been to a march or a protest. I was never lucky enough to have the dates never line up for me. Year after year, I was always out of town for my town’s pride parades. During the legendary women’s marches in January of 2017, I was busy flying airport to airport touring colleges, and watching with jealousy as groups of happy gals in pink caps were on their ways to the rallies. The activist inside of me felt cheated for a long time; I had the attitude, I had the passion, but I hadn’t gotten a chance to show it. So you could say I was pretty excited when I heard about the March For Our Lives happening somewhere I could reach. Hosted on a sunny Saturday afternoon across the blocks of Pennsylvania Avenue, this event was the first I experienced of its kind. After the time I had there, I can definitely say it will not be my last.
There were people everywhere, smiling, laughing, flooding the streets and climbing on top of statues. Music was blasting from huge speakers set up block by block.Â All the eye could see for miles down the road was a sea of handmade signs. Entering this crowd, I immediately felt so warm and empowered; There, I stood, among all those people, fighting for something that we all believe in. Toddlers, teens, adults and old folk alike surrounded me, and even a few parents walked by with an infant strapped to their chest. People of all ages and all races were there in the nation’s capital to march with one another. Even those who were wheelchair-bound showed up for their rights. To witness this union of humanity and to be right in the center of it is something I won’t soon forget.
When the morning’s music ended and the speeches and performances began, a noticeable new energy of reverence washed over the crowd. It was really awesome to see Miley Cyrus, Demi Lovato and some of my other favorite gals sing empowering songs. However, something I really admired about this march was the variety of speakers that they had, representing a bigger issue than gun violence solely in schools. A girl from southern Los Angeles and a few students from Chicago spoke out about firearms in the streets, outside of schools. One boy told the solemn story of losing his twin brother, who was walking home from school when he was fatally shot. Our streets are very often unsafe for kids because of loose gun laws. Many don’t realize that this has been a big issue for a long time, even before the first school shooting, that has still remained unfixed. An 11-year-old little girl (who is a whole lot braver than I am) got up on that stage in front of countless people and told us about how she led a walkout of her own out of her elementary school, and how she hopes to empower other young colored girls out there to stand up. They even got Dr.
Martin Luther King’s granddaughter, Yolanda Renee King, to speak to us and chant with us. To hear the Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school students speak, their voices raw and their eyes brimming with tears, was an emotional experience not only for me, but for the entire million-person crowd. MSDHS student Emma Gonzalez read out all 17 names of the students and teachers who were fatally shot, and followed this with a moment of silence to represent the 6 minutes and 20 seconds that it took Nikolas Cruz to take these lives. The pure silence that ensued down the whole of Pennsylvania Avenue during those few minutes was breathtaking and deafening. I don’t think I’ll ever be in a situation again where that many people could get that quiet all at once.
Being alongside a million strangers, I had never felt more welcome or more powerful. We cheered, cried and marched together, and more than anything, we made change together. Change can’t happen if nobody shows up to these things, so if you ever get the chance to go to a march or a rally or a protest, you’ve got to do it. Add yourself to that welcoming crowd, feel the energy and get inspired. Not only for your own empowerment, but for the empowerment of a generation. As Yolanda King chanted in the closing of her speech, “I have a dream that enough is enough. Spread the word, have you heard? All across the nation, we are going to be a great generation.”
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